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Which qualifications are worthwhile?

This topic was created by Thomas 4 .

IT Angle

Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Howdy folks,

I'm considering a change of career from my current medicinal line of work and stepping into the great grand world of IT. My current plan is starting in helpdesk work and moving up through network admin jobs (i.e. a junior position and working upwards).

Most of my current IT skills are self taught; it's pretty basic stuff like building a PC, installing hardware and OSes and setting up very basic home networks - pretty much a "gamer's toolbox". I've read a fair number of articles on here saying this qualification is worthless, that degree is worthless....

So what qualifications *do* IT recruiters look for in a newcomer? A friend of mine suggested that the Comp TIA A+ or Linux might be a good stepping stone but I'm throwing this one out to the more experienced folks out there. How does one actually get started in IT?

Oh, one small caveat - a degree is out of the question. I can't afford to quit my job and study full time. I'd be looking for a course I can do as an evening class or weekend class. I'm based in London if that helps.

Thanks in advance!

Thomas

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Thomas, we'll put up a little article next week. Let's see what the commentards think.

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Happy

Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Yay! Thank you.

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Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Since I'm liable to miss the article on this if/when it appears.

I'd say you consider doing a degree anyway, part time through the OU perhaps?

I'm a network admin already, but a colleague of mine who works on the helpdesk is looking to work his way up in IT and is doing exactly that.

Other qualifications worth looking into are the CompTIA A+, which is a relatively basic qualification for PC hardware and software installation and maintenance. It becomes largely irrelevant once you have 12 months of experience in a proper technical role, but looks quite good on paper when you're coming from a non-IT background.

I did my A+ at college, with taught classes but there's no reason you can't just get an exam cram book and take the tests at a test center near you. It''s all multiple choice, and the hardest part is figuring out how they want you to answer the questions, since some of their answers are actually wrong from a real world perspective.

Microsoft certifications are worth looking into, as an initial step getting "MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7" might be a good way to go.

Also getting yourself ITIL Foundation certified would be good, as a lot of IT departments and helpdesk systems either use ITIL or base themselves around it.

To be honest coming from a none IT role, you're probably looking at going into Helpdesk/Desktop Support and working up (I went from desktop support to network administration). Getting the above would likely get you into interviews for either.

Once you're into that level, next step would be more Microsoft certs (server related this time, take your pick of the areas you want to learn). It'd probably also be a very good idea to consider doing a CCNA, it's quite a difficult and expensive qualification to get but very worth while. Having a CCNA can open a lot of doors in networking and infrastructure jobs.

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Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Despite a long, long time spent working in the industry, I'm studying an IT degree with the OU at the moment and can recommend it.

One thing to bear in mind is cost. I'm lucky that I started just before the univeristy fees went up, so can finish my degree at the old rates. In common with traditional universities, the OU has more-or-less tripled its fees - meaning a full degree will now cost you £15k. Help is available, as are student loans so it's worth speaking to them.

The degree will take several years - though the fact that you're currently studying towards one could be a big boost to your jobhunting.

Good luck!

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Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

I was in a not entirely different situation to yourself.

I had a construction degree, had been working in Telecomms sales for over a decade and was a hobbyist, computer tinkerer.

In the end I *did* give up my job, went back to college, did the MSc. IT conversion course and now develop mobile apps for a local firm. I appreciate this isn't an option for you but it might be worth checking with your local colleges to see what evening courses they offer.

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IT Angle

An update to the OP

First off, thanks for all the replies so far, including the ones doubting my sanity.

To elaborate a little on my interests - I do actually *enjoy* working with computers, especially dealing with the hardware side of things. I get a strange sense of satisfaction in watching a system I've put together or upgraded boot up and run as sweet as a nut. I also enjoy exploring things about computers that I don't know too well. Manually configuring networks, the dustier corners of Control Panel, mucking around with Linux. Learning new things and then being able to apply them in a troubleshooting context - I like stuff like that.

Of course, I do understand that a large amount of stress comes from computer problems that are not software or hardware related...but then again, I can't imagine it's too different to working with patients. Failing that, there's always the five-pound lump hammer in my IT toolbox as well.

I have done a Computer Studies A-Level in my dim and distant past but the majority of it was taken up with building a database and front end in Microsoft Access, which bored me to tears. We were also taught Pascal which was much more engaging - during the same period I also taught myself Visual Basic. The latter was not such a good idea; I wasted most of my lessons writing an almost passable game of "21" with a basic level AI opponent and forgot to work on the database.

Amusing anecdotes aside, ultimately I'd like to go into network administration, through means of support and helpdesk work (hands on if possible), looking after individual computers and building up from there. Linux support also looks very appealling but I was advised that I'd need some basic level Linux experience first before I'd be able to do the Comp TIA Linux+ course. I'm guessing books would be a good starting point, unless anyone knows of any good online resources?

Once again, I really appreciate the lengths everyone is going to to help me out here. You guys and gals rock.

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Re: An update to the OP

In my experience you may find it hard to locate a job that involves both network administration, and hands on first line support/helpdesk work.

Generally network administration is considered a high level things and is restricted to 2nd and 3rd line support personnel, while first line is primarily desktop support and helpdesk roles. Of course this arrangement will differ from one organisation to the next.

With regards to Linux. Qualifications are relatively few and far between, while the CompTIA Linux+ would quite possibly be good to have, experience is the key thing. With Windows based things you can often blag that you know a little more than you do and pick it up later. Linux makes that much harder, and you'd likely get caught out.

As I said, with Linux there really is no substitute for experience. However that is something you can rectify. I'd suggest take on some hobby projects, like building yourself a Linux based media center.

Regsiter a domain name, get yourself a Linux VPS, and configure a Web server and Email server. There are plenty of guides and forums to help with projects like that, and they'll give you a good basic knowledge of common services like Apache, MYSQL, Postfix and others. This is how I got my Linux wings long before using it for work purposes.

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Don't bother

1. Nobody in the UK has heard of A+. You will never see a job advert saying "must have A+".

2. Don't bother. There are more than enough people in IT already, and we don't need any n00bs thanks.

3. A bloke in India already knows more than you and can do it cheaper.

Harsh but true.

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Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Agreed, the only actual qualification required by most people I spoke with in London over the last couple of years was ITIL. ITIL Foundation V3 is basically a formal qualification that you have some basic common sense. Lots of places claim to want it, almost noone actually uses it, but the principles are easily transferable so it is (barely) worth the 3 day course.

Most Microsoft certs and Cisco certs are worthless to you at this stage - its a lot of money for something that is being done by commodity labour from India. MCP and A+ are basic "I know how to turn it on and what the bits in a box are" qualifications.

You're looking at entry level roles, so combine ITIL with your existing degree and talk to companies directly.

Helpdesk and IT support generally is a soul crushing repetitive job that provides a decent amount of satisfaction to a certain kind of person. If that isn't you, look at other options. I'd follow the advice of the guys below and look at IT roles related to the medical market. Testing for example - good testers are always in demand. Or look at Analyst work - a business analyst runs interference between customer and company, a technical analyst between developer and company. Both are required to interpret a customers needs into what a supplier will produce, and you can probably transfer a lot of your accumulated medical knowledge into such a role.

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Happy

Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Just to scare you off a bit before you go jump careers:

http://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/wiki/bootcamp

It's worth a read. If you are still interested after reading that and all the links, it *might* be worth going for.

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Re: Don't bother

But it's relatively expensive to fly him from India when the secretary's screen won't come on or you need to plugin that new NAS into the network.

Until we all work in the cloud from our iGlasses day-day office IT support is likely to be the only thing that actually does have a job future. A bit like how nurses are safe but expert doctors will be replaced by telemedicine.

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Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

As a cheap way of getting some IT qualifications on your CV I think doing your A+ is good. At the end of the day you only need to pay the exam fee as you can get A+, Network+ and Security+ training for free if you look around i.e. via YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/professormesser

So assuming you pass each exam first time (which is likely with the exam preps around) for 3 exam fees at £150 (I think for CompTIA) you'd be A+, Network+ and Security+ cetified. You might as well do a couple of MCPs too while you're at it as Microsoft/Prometric are doing their second shot deal just now so you get a free resit, plus the MS exams are a bit cheaper.

It's not going to solve the 'no previous experience' issue but it I was looking for a junior helpdesk/desktop bod and you seemed keen, sensible, had a good manner, A+, Network+, Security+, Windows 7 MCP, etc you'd be in with a decent shout. Then once you've got a years experience under your belt you can look at moving about a bit to progress and get other experience.

Don't be put off by the negative comments about IT as you'll get that from any person about their own sector if they've been working in it for a while. I'm sure you'd probably say the same to anyone in IT wanting to make the jump into your area of work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An update to the OP

To Thomas 4

"I do actually *enjoy* working with computers"

Yes, and so did I for the first few years, then slowly but surely I became a user when I walked out of the office. I now don't touch computers out of work other than as a user. I used to get a lot of side jobs fixing computers, the users were eternally gratefully for cleaning up whatever and I was promised anything from cash to nice a single malt for fixing them. Unfortunately, as most were people I knew, I trusted them, I'm still awaiting the first bottle! I digress. It reached a point were there were 4 computers stacked on top of each other waiting for me fix them as 'favours'. Over time I started to increase the repair time, to the point were I wasn't touching the PC for 1-2weeks, but even that didn't defer people. In the end I said, £50 minimum for me to look at it. This then had the desired effect, "PC World is cheaper", "Off you go then" was the reply.

These days everyone knows a computer 'expert' (I use that term very loosely) therefore the chances of standing out in PC hardware maintenance/1st line support role very difficult.

One final thought...

You wouldn't buy a car from Ford and then say, OK, teach me to drive. Why is it acceptable to buy a computer and then expect the seller to teach you?

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Re: Don't bother

Re. "But it's relatively expensive to fly him from India when the secretary's screen won't come on or you need to plugin that new NAS into the network."

If the organisation's large enough to have its own helpdesk (in which case where it's located is irrelevant to the discussion), then conducting running repairs on the user's desk makes no sense.

Hardware problems should be dealt with in the workshop. A man-with-a-van can take care of swapping out on site.

Keeping users working is a high priority.

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Go

Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Hi Thomas,

I’ve worked in IT for the past 10 years now after leaving University with a BSc Degree in Computer Science.

Firstly I’d like to say that the best thing a Degree will give you is life skills easily transferable to any career you apply them too! This may sound like an oxymoron (always wanted to use that work) but a Degree will teach you how to learn things for yourself, this is meant in a good way though! You can’t just rely on the web to pass a Degree you need reliable trusted sources of information as references for your assignments, this involves learning a little background about who is providing the knowledge too, for example the author of a text book.

On a less positive note, although my degree did open doors for interviews I had the same doors slammed back in my face due to a lack of experience. Be prepared to be discouraged but also know in the end you will get a job if you keep trying! My big break was working for on a rollout project for a company which took me up and down the country and I really enjoyed it, got to meet all sides of a company from supply chain to exec level. There may be scope out there for companies looking for temp staff to assist with migrations to Windows 7 right now.

Unfortunately Degree’s these days cost big money so you really do have to decide for yourself if they are still worth the money, for the IT industry I'm not too sure….

In terms of IT skills my advice is that with the current economic climate there has never been a better time than to learn Linux skills and while you’re at it become a Python Programmer too! Python is relatively easy to learn and is used a lot within the Linux world, less so in the world of Windows but don’t let that stop you. You really can achieve great things with little money thanks to the world of Open Source and the great people who make it happen. Please do jump in, the waters warm!

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ADG

Re: An update to the OP

"In my experience you may find it hard to locate a job that involves both network administration, and hands on first line support/helpdesk work."

The exception in my experience is small firms - the kind of place where you can count the total number of IT staff on the fingers of one hand. My last job was as a developer in a company with less than 100 staff in the whole company and 3 in IT. In that kind of environment, you're expected to pitch in and do everything and anything IT-related - the company mostly valued flexibility, attitude and an ability to work with people (which again, as an ex-medic you should be able to manage).

It was frustrating in some ways and long-term I decided to move on to a larger firm with more infrastructure and resources where I could specialise properly, but as a starter role in professional IT it was great.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

I also did the career change from being a scientist in the NHS pathology labs to IT.

I have a degree in a profession allied to medicine and that is all I have with regards to tertiary education qualifications.

I didn't bother pursuing any other formal degree as working in Networking, the vocational qualifications count more than what you actually did in University.

My post is biased towards networking as that is what I know.

When I switched careers over 10 years ago, I picked myself a CCNA book and with the help of forums and my own lab, was able to get myself to a first line standard. This was done when I was still working as a scientist. Once I passed the CCNA, I started applying for jobs and it was only after a few months that I got my first interview. I was lucky to get that job but that was the break I needed and I resigned from the NHS there and then.

If you are interested in networking, it will come down to a choice whether you want to enter telecoms which is where I am at currently or an enteprise environment.

In my experience, only enterprises with a global presence such as banking, etc, will have a dedicated networking team. Smaller enteprises will be looking for a jack of all trades, therefore a Windows/Linux Sys Admin/ and a Networker.

If you are interested in networking such as routers, switches, VoIP, etc, then a managed services provider and a telecoms provider come to mind.

For that, you will need a CCNA as a minimum and you will start from first line as expected. There will be an element of shift work however once you progress to second line, normally, you get changed to days.

Salary requirements for first line ranges according to employer however you are looking at mid-£20K including shift allowance.

I progressed through first line to third line, then moved onto designing data and voice networks but that took me roughly 5 years and is dependent on aptitude.

The salary for a network designer is extremely competitive and from what I have seen on jobserve and the like, normally starts from about £60K. To reach that level, you will need to take more vocational exams such as the CCNP/CCVP and then the CCIE in the relevant track. This is a big investment in time and money so if you are hoping not to study for the next 5 years, then this is not the career track for you. Also, you can't always expect to have training paid for hence why the big investment in books from Cisco Press for passing the exams and practice in labs you might build at home.

It is a myth that IT is a job that you leave behind when you leave the office. Once you have reached a certain stage in your career, you will find yourself being the point of contact for many issues, even when you have allegedly finished work, so be prepared to work long hours when needed and be available at short notice.

The main thing is to actually choose the path you want and get qualified in it. You don't have to take any courses but they do help.

As mentioned, I can't comment on any other field apart from networking but I must admit I didn't take heed of the A+ or N+ when interviewing prospective first line and second line candidates. The only thing I was looking for was a CCNA as a minimum and some aptitude for the job in hand.

I wish you luck with the switch.

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Re: Which qualifications are worthwhile?

First I welcome you to computer world.You can do CCNA( Cisco Certified Network Associate).now a days there is a good future in CCNA.If you are CCNA certified then company will direct recurit you.

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Re: An update to the OP

If you're interested in learning linux, the best place to start is by running linux as your primary desktop for a while, and troubleshooting whenever you run into issues. For educational purposes Fedora or Debian is best, although other distros (like Mint) are easier for beginners if you get lost with those.

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Anonymous Coward

PhD Theoretical Psychics is always useful.

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Along with a National Diploma in Crowbar handling?

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Theoretical?

All psychics are theoretical, at least until someone proves you can communicate with the dead.

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Pint

Well...

It's difficult to guess what sort of salary you're aiming at? An apprenticeship+experience=degree but both take quite some time. Also, any industry that pays well can be quite specialized if you want to earn proper coin - nobody knows everything about electronics today for example.

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Anonymous Coward

Language

Probably best to learn some languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent, because that's where the decent IT jobs are going. If you want a trade - take up plumbing.

/I really love my (sh)IT(e) work at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Language

He's not wrong!

You need to move to India, become unable to understand basic Requests or display any capacity for rational thought or initiative, also refusing to speak to anyone but your direct superior will help tremendously... On the plus side, you don't actually need any of those pesky qualifications, you can just have your company lie about it!

I really couldn't encourage anyone to move into IT nowadays, although you never know, it may all cycle around again in a few years!

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Re: Language

I am currently working in the Philippines where many IT call centres are located. I was born in France and worked in the UK for 10 years.

Don't dismiss going abroad to get into IT. It's clearly not for everyone but it's an eye openner and you can see why companies are sending jobs there. There is no benefits if you don't work and health care is all private. Result:in the helpdesk I work in, they all want to work hard, they do overtime if necessairy. They all want the latest shinies and they will work for it even though their pay, relative to the shinies, is much less than in western countries. There is more girls than guys and another huge difference is that everyone is really friendly and if they see someone with more money than them, they are happy for their success.

You'll need extra languages skills as a foreigner though, they all speak English and only employ foreigners if they can't find the skills locally (I'm lucky I have French).

I don't have an expat contract but a local one so I get paid a ridiculously low amount by western standard but what matters is what you can buy with it locally. I enjoy a condo with swimming pool and gym.

It might not be for Thomas, the original poster but It might help someone. This is only my experience, your mileage may vary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Language

Your post made me laugh so much I registered just to reply! Very true - get a PRINCE2 or management training course instead; that way you can do bugger all, leech money out of your company at an alarming rate and get promoted to even higher levels of incompetence within a couple of years...

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A+

Having looked over the A+ syllabus it's a useful entry tool for helpdesk. Just don't believe the lying course providers. I looked at the skills taught then asked one what the target earnings were for someone with the qualification. He told me £35k+. Best joke I'd heard all year.

If you have a little money and intelligence I thoroughly recommend ISTQB Foundation in System Testing. There appear to be a lot of testing jobs around at the moment and good testers are like gold dust. Pay isn't too bad either.

If you have a lot of money and intelligence the Penetration Testing course is well worth a look. Pen testers are the high paid rock stars of the computing world.

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WTF?

Re: A+

"If you have a lot of money and intelligence the Penetration Testing course is well worth a look. Pen testers are the high paid rock stars of the computing world."

I take it you don't work in pen testing then yes?

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Anonymous Coward

Don't bother with qualifications - everything you need to learn is free!

As someone who's worked their way up from building websites at a local council to writing FX trading algos in New York, I can say that:

- your qualifications count for NOTHING. Having a degree in any subject is fine. Even some of the banks don't care if you have a degree or not - I'm seeing more and more specs saying "or relevant business experience". I have interviewed people from Oxford and Cambridge who are useless.

- you NEED to have an outside-work interest in IT. The best developers are those who are passionate about what they do. Read blogs. Download Visual Studio 2012 Express and SQL Server 2012 Express - they are free - and start playing around. Build an app on a mobile phone and show it to the people interviewing you. Build a website using HTML 5 and then put the link in your CV.

- you also need to be interested. Desire to learn more about IT and pass this to your future employer.

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Re: Don't bother with qualifications - everything you need to learn is free!

While some of the above is true, you're really generalizing too much.

Qualifications become worthless when you have experience in other IT roles that you can put on your CV.

The experience is what gets you the interview, the problem is if you don't have experience how do you get it?

How do you land your first IT roles to get experience?

Qualifications are what get you the interviews when you're new to IT, at least they do these days.

Everyone I've ever heard say you don't need qualifications is someone that's worked in IT for a decade or more, and started in an era when IT qualifications were a much less diverse and recognized field.

Being 26 myself, I know what it's like breaking into IT jobs in the present day particularly with little or no experience.

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Re: Don't bother with qualifications - everything you need to learn is free!

My degree has been very useful to me. It's opened a lot of doors and more importantly it's given me a good grounding in a wide range of computer *stuff*.

You can talk your way past the degree requirements at a lot of places and you don't need a degree to be an awesome software engineer, but I've found it very useful for both thing. It's true that some of the best people I've worked with had no degree, but most did.

Being interested in tech? Hell yes that's a requirement.

To the OP if you're reading this - try to find some way to leverage your existing knowledge into a few steps up the ladder in IT and skip the helldesk stuff entirely. Find a crossover job where you bring the domain knowledge but you learn the technical ropes from some more experienced tech guys.

Also (and I'm going to get flamed for this) programming/software engineering is far more interesting than IT and networks!

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Re: Don't bother with qualifications - everything you need to learn is free!

> - your qualifications count for NOTHING.

They give you the first step on the ladder. After that, employers are expecting to see demonstrable experience.

That's why it is a good idea to have an outside work interest in IT. Start an open source project doing something that you find interesting or contribute to an existing one. There are projects out there crying out for help in coding and particularly documentation.

It doesn't have to be something big but it does help if is something that you are passionate about or find a need for in your everyday life. That's how you will get real life experience.

Most of the people that are successful in computing are out and out nerds. They love IT. You have to live it because it can be so demanding and intense sometimes.

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An alternative approach

You might want to consider offering your services on a try-before-you-buy basis. Go to potential employers, and tell them: "I've got the skills for at least basic helpline and systems configuration support, but no qualifications. So how about I work for you for a month. If you think I'm pulling my weight and doing the job, pay me for the month, and keep me on. If you don't, then tell me so - sooner the better - and we'll part without you having to pay a penny."

Sometimes a can-do attitude and an entrepreneurial spirit can win, over paper qualifications. After all, if they like your face, you could even get them to pay for your training, whilst they're paying you to work.

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Re: An alternative approach

A nice approach but EU law prevents this I am afraid - you are not allowed to work for free. I tried something similar to this once and was told by the firm's legal team that it was a no-go area. We agreed that they would pay me minimum wage for the period.

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Re: An alternative approach

Do you have any idea how bad it looks offering to work for free?

I used to work for free, but then I stopped being 12.

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Re: An alternative approach

Since I've run several businesses, and taken on people who've offered themselves on that try-before-you-buy basis - yes, I know _exactly_ how "bad" it looks. Precisely "not at all".

You don't do it for every candidate, but if someone looks to have the right skills and attitude, but not the commercial experience or quallies to back them up, it's a great way of giving someone an option they'd otherwise not have, without risk to your company if they turn out unsatisfactory.

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Facepalm

Re: An alternative approach

You're incorrect. Look up "internship". That's exactly the type of arrangement, and it's almost always unpaid. The difference between a typical internship and what I'm describing is that the candidate gets paid for their time if the company decides to keep them on, which seems only fair to me.

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Re: An alternative approach

we've had job applicants saying right in their cover letter "will work for free". and they don't even bother tarting it up with talk of internships or a paid opportunity later. they just say hey bitch i wanna for FOR FREE. so you look at their CV and invariably they graduated from some fake Indian university with a double degree in nuclear chemistry but they can't spell nuclear or chemistry and most of the CV was copied off the example on the front page of today's monster.com

looks real good, in the bin.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't bother....

....if you are working in the medical industry, I'd stay there. I've worked in IT all my life and this golden, plush future with endless pots of cash is crap. At school they made IT sound on par with a Doctor or an Engineer. In reality, we are just the under paid geeks in the corner. We don't sell, we don't manage, so we are a none entity that is sucking profit from the shareholders.

I expect this post will get flamed, but I know I am looking at getting out of IT. I am currently looking at completely different avenues of employment and training.

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Pint

Re: Don't bother....

I won't flame you, everybody is entitled to their opinion.

You are correct IT does suck profit and consume vast amounts of money, additionally IT rarely make profits for a company.

But IT is an enabler, without which the business would not exist, people would not have all the shiny gadgets that make their life "easier" and communication would be stuck back in the 1960's.

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Re: Don't bother....

You'll not get flamed by me. I'll be changing career once I've turfed the kids out - sadly that is still the best of ten years away. But then ten years is nothing once you get past thirty five.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't bother....

That's your problem there Anon @ 13:50. The attitude. I'm a little geek at heart, but I think too many plaster themselves with the stereotype.

However, I must loop your comment to IT in general within the education sector. It's all the same from others I know who work there (not just IT staff, also admin). Schools won't value IT, although they'll sell the pretty picture of it because...

a) School management (unless they come from an IT background) don't understand it.

b) School management normally distrust their managers anyway and give IT the biggest goals but smallest budgets.

c) Their priorities lie with teaching staff and getting results. That's the problem when you have all schools exposed via grade tables and open OFSTED reports.

I worked in education IT for 5 years. Was lucky that the private school took me on as an apprentice and had a manager that supported my development and fought for a couple of promotions on my behalf. It had a ceiling though and wanted to move on into London. I must agree that it's very easy for IT engineers in education to get stuck and take the easy life it provides. So one bit of advice; try avoid education IT altogether (unless it's a University!).

I'd personally recommend Cisco qualitifications if you're already building computers and understand OSes from top to bottom. There are plenty of Universities that offer evening courses as an academy (DO NOT USE TRAINING PROVIDERS FOUND ONLINE!) for CCNA (entry level) and can advise well to move onto CCNP or other Cisco qualifications. There's always going to be demand for people who know networks very well and can setup routers/switches/APs competently.

I'm now working as an Infrastructure Engineer at a medium sized web company (anon for obvious reasons). No degree; just lots of hard work and love web and networking technologies. You just need to sell yourself well and having been in the medical industry, you might not have too many problems with that if you make the switch.

Good luck!

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Re: Don't bother....

As someone in a similar position who spent the last year applying for entry-level tech support jobs (and hoping to work my way up) I agree, don't bother.

I'm also self-taught, I do all friends and family tech support including system builds, remote support, spyware removal, the usual stuff. I run the home network which includes a freenas box serving media around the house. I'm comfortable with Linux and Windows. I've sat with my own company IT dept. to get a feel for applications like Active Directory and was staggered to learn that they didn't even know basic keyboard shortcuts for software they'd been using for years. I learned to host my own website and created something in Wordpress (and got to tinker with php). I went on to create a second site to try to demonstrate putting my skills into practice and to try and show my knowledge in my current area of employment. I also started taking online courses to get to grips with javascript and Python basics.

All of this went into my CV, and I applied for hundreds of jobs during 2012.

I didn't get one interview. Not. One.

This was for basic entry-level support I know I could do with my eyes closed, and pay thousands less than I'm on now in office admin. I just wanted a foot in the door and a chance to prove myself (and was willing to take the pay cut). Between the stupidly unrealistic job requirements and the doom and gloom in the press, it seems to me that IT is actually a pretty crap gig to try and get in to right now. If places aren't outsourcing they mostly seem to want to hire people straight out of school/uni who will work for apprentice-level wages.

I gave up on IT in November and am currently teaching myself more web-based skills as I now hope to get into Digital Media instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't bother....

You've hit the nail on the head. My attitude has slowly got worse, I think years of being told things like 'I know your printer is broken, but you can't have that £30 replacement, print to another printer'. Then add 3 years with no pay increase, despite spiralling living costs, not one training course during the 4+ years I've been here.

This is part of the reason I want out, I try to stay motivated, keen, eager, but if I said my desktop computer at home hasn't been turned on in nearly 3 years (seriously) - you may understand the levels I've reached. Don't get me wrong, there are good points, but if I knew at school what I know now, computing would have stayed my favourate hobby and I'd have done something completely different.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't bother....

One drunken night I sat down and had a chat with a young pal of mine.

A week later he signed up to Naval College and is now working ships.

He earns considerably more than me (his old boss...).

My advice is also "don't bother". It's taken years to get where I am now but those years have been filled with consistent frustration at the skills of the people around me - who more or less don't have a clue about "Computers".

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Happy

Re: Don't bother....

"We don't manage, we don't sell" - there's your problem. As someone who made a quarter mill in the year before the millenium as a DBA and then retired to become a plumber, my advice is to change your view. Selling:- work out who your customer is - mine was the development teams, Then work out who their customer is (Traders in my case) and understand their problems. At this point you can 'sell' solutions to your customer and get promoted. Managing:- always have a plan - even if you have to tell your boss to get stuffed while you put a plan together to handle an emergency. Bosses like to know their people are in control. People who know what they are doing get paid more.

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Unhappy

Re: Don't bother....

I'm now on less money than I was 20 years ago and have the same job title I had 30 years ago - even though I have far more skills. There is a ceiling in most UK where you hear "we can't pay you any more or you'll be earning more than some managers!"

Plus the market is so bad they realise they can cut and cut, regardless of how well the company is doing.

Managers are readily available and most people could be a mediocre manager with little training - but managers run the world and don't value IT people like they used to.

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Re: Don't bother....

Have to agree with that. Although it wasn't IT related, I pulled cable at Heathrow T5 for 18 months and while it was reasonable money, it was also real work (which I enjoyed actually).

The Cisco lot just breezed in once we'd made the comms rooms ready for them, sat on their arses, earning in excess of twice what we were, for lighting a few ports!

Bear in mind though, that the CAD technicians were earning at least double again, sat in a warm comfy office on the other side of the apron from the freezing airfield we were working in.

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